Alison Olcott

Natural Sciences and Mathematics - Geology
Associate Professor
Primary office:
Slawson Hall, room 270C
University of Kansas
1420 Naismith Drive
Lawrence, KS 66045


Dr. Olcott's research combines organic geochemical techniques with paleontological and geological techniques, to characterize the evolution and preservation of the biosphere through time, especially in intervals of Earth’'s history where the traditional fossil record is sparse.


My teaching focuses on preparing students to find, evaluate, and apply ideas and information with an awareness of their disciplinary and global context. My teaching specialties are interdisciplinary science classes aimed at non-majors and upper-level classes poised at the intersection of chemistry, biology, and geology, with additional expertise in curriculum development and program assessment.

Teaching Interests

  • Organic geochemistry
  • Paleobiology
  • Chemical Paleontology
  • Early life
  • Precambrian
  • Biomarkers
  • Fossil preservation
  • Paleontology

Research Interests

  • Organic geochemistry
  • Paleobiology
  • Chemical Paleontology
  • Early life
  • Precambrian
  • Biomarkers
  • Fossil preservation
  • Paleontology

Selected Publications

Olcott Marshall, A, and S Crawford Parker. “ Exploring Mars: A Science-Focused First Year Seminar for Non-Science Majors.” Book Chapters. In Case Studies on High-Impact Practices in First Year Seminars. National Resource Center for the First-Year Experience and Students in Transition, 2017.
Olcott Marshall, Alison, and Kelsey Bitting. “Case Study: Flipping a Paleontology Class for Non-Majors.” Book Chapters. In The Flipped College Classroom: Conceptualized and Re-Conceptualized. Springer Books, 2017.
Marshall, Craig P., Alison Olcott Marshall, J. B. Aitken, B. Lai, S. Vogt, P. Breuer, P. Steemans, and P. A. Lay. “Imaging of Vanadium in Microfossils: A New Potential Biosignature.” Journal Articles. Astrobiology, 2017.
Emry, Julienne R, Alison Olcott Marshall, and Craig P Marshall. “Evaluating the Effects of Autofluorescence during Raman Hyperspectral Imaging.” Journal Articles. Geostandards and Geoanalytical Techniques, 2016.
Olcott Marshall, Alison, and Kelsey S Bitting. “Teaching through Human-Driven Extinctions and Climate Change: Adding Civic Engagement to an Introductory Geology Course for Non-Majors.” Journal Articles. International Journal of Science Education and Civic Engagement, 2016.
Olcott Marshall, Alison, and Nicholas A Cestari. “Biomarker Analysis of Samples Visually Identified as Microbial in the Eocene Green River Formation: An Analog for Mars.” Journal Articles. Astrobiology, September 2015.
Harris, Liam V, Melissa McHough, Ian B Hutchinson, Richard Ingley, Cédric Malherbe, John Parnell, Howell G. M. Edwards, Jan Jehlička, and Alison Olcott Marshall. “Avoiding Misidentification of Bands in Planetary Raman Spectra.” Journal Articles. Journal of Raman Spectroscopy, August 2015.
Harris, Liam, Ian B Hutchinson, Craig P Marshall, Alison Olcott Marshall, and Howell G. M. Edwards. “Selection of Portable Spectrometers for Planetary Exploration - A Comparison of 532 Nm and 785 Nm Raman Spectroscopy of Reduced Carbon in Archaean Cherts.” Journal Articles. Astrobiology, 2015.
Olcott Marshall, Alison, and Craig P Marshall. “Vibrational Spectroscopy of Fossils.” Journal Articles. Frontiers in Palaentology 58, no. 2 (2015): 201–11.
Olcott Marshall, A., J. Jehlicka, J-N Rouzad, and C. P. Marshall. “Multiple Generations of Carbonaceous Material Deposited in Apex Chert by Basin-Scale Pervasive Hydrothermal Fluid Flow.” Journal Articles. Gondwana Research 25, no. 1 (2014): 284–89.
Marshall, C P, and A Olcott Marshall. “Raman Spectroscopy as a Screening Tool for Ancient Life Detection on Mars .” Journal Articles. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, A 372, no. 2030 (2014): pii: 20140195. doi: 10.1098/rsta.2014.0195.
Glauser, A L, C J Harper, T N Taylor, E L Taylor, C P Marshall, and A Olcott Marshall. “Reexamination of Microspore Contents in Pennsylvanian Spores and Pollen Grains.” Journal Articles. Review of Palaeobotany and Palynology 210 (2014): 62–68.

Selected Awards & Honors

Jan F and Mary van Sant Award of Excellence in Geology
University of Kansas Department of Geology
Christopher H. Haufler Award for KU Core Innovation for Geology 121
KU Provost
2016 - Present
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Upcoming Colloquium


2/25/21: Dr. Katherine Ryker, Assistant Professor, University of South Carolina

3/25/21: Dr. Jonathan Payne, Professor, Geological Science, Stanford University, Stanford, California.

4/8/21: Dr. Peter Burgess, Professor of Sedimentary Geology and Head of Earth Sciences, University of Liverpool, Liverpool, United Kingdom.

4/29/21: Dr. Hildegard Westphal, Professor, Geoecology & Carbonate Sedimentology and Director of the Center for Marine Environmental Science, Bremen University, Bremen, Germany.

Geology Scholarship

The 2021-2022 Academic-Year Undergraduate Scholarship Award Application is now online.
Complete the online form to be considered for the scholarship award.